First Great Western has announced proposals to deliver the largest train fleet upgrade in a generation on the Great Western network as part of its plans for the new franchise that starts in September, and will run until at least April 2019.
In a deal put together with the department for transport, First Great Western’s plans would see the age of First Great Western’s train fleet cut by more than half, and would create for our customers 9,000 additional seats every day by the end of the franchise.
This unlocks quicker journey times and additional services on both long distance and commuter services across the region.
The deal brings together a range of benefits for customers and communities by the end of the franchise period, including plans for new or updated trains in every area of the network.
This includes proposals for a brand new fleet of privately funded intercity trains for services to and from Devon and Cornwall - creating three million additional seats a year for customers across the network.
Free Wi-Fi will also be extended to train fleets, while more direct trains into Devon and Cornwall, doubling the number of trains into and out of Cornwall, and reducing journey times between Paddington and Penzance by up to 14 minutes, will also be on offer.
FirstGroup chief executive, Tim O’Toole said: “We are delighted to be awarded the contract by the DfT to operate the Great Western franchise until at least April 2019, in a deal that will deliver for passengers and taxpayers.
“As the proud operators of this important franchise we will be using our unrivalled knowledge and experience of the network to help deliver significant upgrades over the next few years, in particular the introduction of new trains as the mainline is electrified.
“We are already working closely with the DfT and Network Rail to deliver the initial phases of the £7.5bn Great Western Mainline modernisation programme.
“This investment is the biggest on the route since Brunel, and will transform a key part of the country’s transport infrastructure.”
Under the plans First Great Western will also offer faster trains between South Wales, Bristol and London, cutting journey times into Bristol Temple Meads by up to 17 minutes and Cardiff by up to 14 minutes.
The company will also invest £50 million to improve stations, including 2,000 new car park spaces across the network, customer information improvements and improved PA systems.
O’Toole added: “Under our experienced management, the franchise will see new or refurbished trains on every part of the network, resulting in more frequent and faster journeys and an increase in the number of seats.
“These, and a range of further passenger benefits, will keep people moving and communities prospering across the Great Western network.”
The company will expand the use of the GWR brand, currently used in its long distance First Class carriages and will rebrand before the start of the new franchise in September.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “I am determined that passengers in the West, Thames Valley and South Wales get a railway that is fit for the 21st century.
“This is a fantastic deal which will give them more seats, more services and brand new fleets of modern trains.
“This government knows the importance of our railways.
“That is why they are a vital part of our long term economic plan, with over £38 billion being spent on the network between 2014 and 2019.”